View Full Version : Morrison Wide Angle View Lenses

9-Dec-2017, 11:35
I’ve been an enthusiastic collector of early American lenses for a decade. America began making portrait (Petzval) and landscape lenses very early, during the Daguerreotype era, but for unclear reasons stopped most lens making by about 1879. It wasn’t until a generation later that the German immigrants Bausch and Lomb restarted American optical production in a big way.

Richard Morrison was an optical inventor and businessman in the heart of the early period. He was the shop foreman for CC Harrison, then when he died took over the Harrison & Schnitzer Globe lens patent. He patented several good wide angle lenses that were acclaimed in the 1870s and 80s. He also made some very high quality portrait Petzvals when with Scovill.


This weekend I met a guy that had inherited a few boxes of lenses, mostly parts and pieces. He said he had a no-name brass lens, and sent me a picture. He said nothing was written on it, and nothing showed in the picture. When we met, I could see the high quality of the brass mount and wheel stop. Turning it over in my hand, I could clearly see R. Morrison May 1872 Patent through the dust. Needless to say I was very pleased. This one is pretty big, an 8x10 size. It's 477 serial number makes it an early one too.


This 1883 article about a visit to Morrison's works offers a fascinating insight into 19th century lens making. Note they mention that no raw optical glass is made in America at that time. It was being sourced from England.


9-Dec-2017, 11:50
Great find and thanks for sharing history !


Steven Tribe
9-Dec-2017, 12:50
I never tire of reading about workshop/factory visits (the link)!

And, of course, glass from dear old "Chance Brothers" who were behind all of Ross and Dallmeyer lenses until 1890. Now just a name attached to a minor subsidiary company in Malvern.

Great Patina!

Jim Fitzgerald
9-Dec-2017, 13:24
Garrett, thanks for posting this. I recently acquired a number 9. I need to make a lens board and test it out on my largest camera. One question I have is are the F-22 or F-16 like the Ross were.

9-Dec-2017, 14:24
Thanks guys, I like the patina too. I don't know the speeds on them, but because of some of the testimonials in the old journals saying things like "faster by half a stop than the Dallmeyer", I'm guessing about F11 or 12. The Vade Mecum says they are a modified globe, one group a doublet achromat, the other a single. I took mine apart and believe that's correct. The doublet is just two lenses laying together, like the rear of a Petzval, but absolutely no air space. Strange.

Jim Fitzgerald
9-Dec-2017, 14:45
Garrett, thanks. It will be fun testing mine out on the 14x17.